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Better the World through Environmental Education
The Sustainability Program at Urbana University has received grants from the Ohio Environmental Education Fund (OEEF), the Ohio Department of Natural Resource, and the Levin Family Foundation to help achieve our mission.
With the OEEF grant funding, we created an environmental education tour complete with a rain garden, and have completed three years of our recurring demonstration of trout rearing on campus to enhance our students’ understanding of aquatic ecosystems and water quality. These grants have also helped us incorporate environmental education activities into family events sponsored by our local partners, such as Cedar Bog, Champaign Family YMCA and Urbana High School.
Urbana University's Sustainability Coordinator, Dr. Tingting Cai, is directing this outreach project. We're thrilled to have Dr. Cai leading this effort.
The Outdoor Environmental Education Collaborative Outreach Committee of Champaign County is a team of local collaborators who are passionate about environmental education in Champaign County, Ohio. Our goal is to increase environmental awareness within our community and to improve the educational experience of students across Champaign County.
Learning items available through our OEEF grant
Funding for this project is provided in part by a grant that Urbana University received in 2013 from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Environmental Education Fund (OEEF). The following items have been purchased through the OEEF grant and are available for loan to our collaborating partners:
- Groundwater Flow Model and Rain Simulator
- Mobile Lab of Activities (includes activities from Project WET, Project Learning Tree, and Healthy Water/Healthy People)
- Energy and Society Kits from Project Learning Tree
- Hach Education Test Kits: Water Ecology
- Open Reel Tapes for Distance Measurement
- Quadrats (for plant diversity measurement)
- Vernier Digital Multimeters (for water quality testing)
- Soil Moisture Samplers
- Water Testing Meters
To schedule a presentation or borrow materials, please contact:
The rain garden at Urbana University is Osorb-enhanced and designed to capture and treat 40 percent of the runoff generated from the adjacent parking lot. The garden will provide 600 square feet of surface area with a gravel layer (8 inches deep), Osorb-fill media (1.5 feet deep), and open space for ponding (8 inches deep). Overflow bypass drainage and sampling ports will be installed to monitor the garden and for educational purposes.
The light green area indicates location of the rain garden.
The orchard contains apple and pear trees and will soon feature Pawpaw trees. Urbana University is closely linked to Johnny Appleseed, a pioneer in planting our much-loved apple trees. The orchard is managed in a sustainable way, resulting in better water quality with fewer pesticides and nutrients entering our water. Our soil water sampler will be used to test the water quality at our orchard to ensure it’s the best of the best.
Temperate deciduous forest is Ohio’s native habitat, and Urbana University has about 20 acres of this type of forest. At this station, you’ll learn the important tree species in our ecosystem. The forest ecosystem at Urbana has suffered from the impact of Asian Honeysuckle, an invasive species. However, some eradication efforts have helped hold off this invasive species over the past few years. Native species are recolonizing the forest floor as a result of our efforts in controlling this invasive species.
This 13-acre native tallgrass prairie was transformed from simple mowed grass in 2008. The conversion was funded by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Once visitors step foot on the prairie, they’ll immediately notice the diversity of plant and insects in comparison to the mowed grass. Each summer, this prairie is packed with the golden petals of Black-eyed Susans, in addition to the other native plants. The bird population and diversity has also increased, along with the abundant and diverse food source that the prairie provides.
All of the storm water from the University goes right into the Stormwater-Treatment Wetland.
Not sure what a wetland is? It’s an area covered or saturated by water during part of the growing season each year. Ohio’s natural wetlands include marshes, swamps, bogs and fens, and they provide a natural area for water to be purified and infiltrated back into the groundwater. Wetlands function in an ecosystem much like kidneys in the human body – purifying water by hosting a very diverse group of microorganisms (aerobes, anaerobes and facultatives).
Our wetland plant and animal communities are very diverse. According to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Ohio wetland-area decreased from about 5,000,000 acres in the 1780s to about 483,000 acres in the 1980s – a reduction of 90 percent. It’s our goal to bring that number back up again.
The purpose of this station is to offer a comparison of our natural ecosystems, in terms of plant and animal diversity, as well as in water quality. The low plant diversity is immediately apparent to visitors, but appreciating the difference in animal diversity will require a walk through the prairie in warmer months and with a keen eye. The neat and tidy mowed-grass areas are maintained with some indisputable costs to our ecosystems. Energy is needed for regular mowing, and fertilizers and pesticides are often used to maintain this clean-cut appearance. When an observer sees a tall-grass prairie, buzzing with the life of jumping insects and flying birds, this green mowed-grass is drastically different by comparison.
Environmental stewardship and education go beyond understanding natural ecosystems. We strive to lower our carbon footprint by using renewable energy sources. That’s why we installed our solar array in the fall of 2012. With more than 500 panels occupying 1.3 acres of our campus, it produces about 510 kW of electricity, which provides for about 15 percent of Urbana University’s electricity consumption.
A pollinator trail provides nectar and pollens for bees and other pollinators, beautification for our campus, and serves as an educational resource for our students.
Although not native to North America, honey bees have become our major pollinator because of their effectiveness at this job. Other pollinators include butterflies, bumblebees, hummingbirds and beetles. Bees and butterflies face many challenges today, including the effects of pesticides and diminishing food sources.
To help bees:
- Plant native wildflowers wherever land is available.
- Avoid pesticides as much as possible.
- Learn about pollinators and help provide habitats where they can thrive
Our Outdoor Environmental Education Committee was formed to deliver educational activities to engage the public in the exploration of environmental issues in Champaign County. We aim to:
- Incorporate material from Project WET, Healthy Water, Healthy People and Project Learning Tree, in designing demonstrations and hands-on activities delivered onsite at Urbana University and at local events sponsored by collaborating organizations
- Use a mobile lab for activities at events offered by collaborating organizations
- Design a tour that will educate the community on the importance of water resources, with an emphasis on water quality, local ecosystems and other aspects of sustainable resources
- Assist Urbana University in creating a rain garden as part of its demonstration site
- Dr. Tingting Cai - Urbana University
- Paul Waldsmith - Champaign County Family YMCA
- Sonya Stonerock - Champaign County Family YMCA
- Tracy Bleim - Cedar Bog Nature Preserve
- Debra Barger - Kiser Lake State Park
- Eric Evans - Ohio Caverns
- Dr. Dave Smith - Freshwater Farms
- Marc Stadler - Valley View Woodlands
- Jean Gayley - Cedar Bog Nature Preserve
- Julie McDaniel - Urbana University
- Dr. Beth Paul - Urbana University
- Ty Henderson - Champaign County Library
- Cheryl Ogden - Johnny Appleseed Educational Center & Museum
- Dr. Mary Anne Frazee - Urbana University
- Dale Goddard - Champaign Soil and Water Conservation District
- Sarah Kelly - Girl Scouts of Western Ohio
- Paula Chapski - Girl Scouts of Western Ohio
- Susan Fleece - Urbana High School